A South Korean court acquitted Samsung Electronics heir Lee Jae-yong of a raft of crimes linked to a controversial 2015 merger which prosecutors said was designed to cement his control of the tech group, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea.(AP)

The court said that they did “not recognise intention to harm shareholders,” through the merger, the report claimed while prosecutors had asked for a five-year jail term last November. Lee Jae-yong denied wrongdoing saying that he and other executives acted on the belief that the merger would benefit shareholders.

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The ruling could still be appealed by prosecutors but it prevents a return to jail for Lee Jae-yong who was convicted in 2017 of bribing a friend of former President Park Geun-hye and served 18 months of a 30-month sentence. He was pardoned in 2022 by current South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol with the government saying that he was needed to help overcome a “national economic crisis”.

What was Lee Jae-yong accused of?

In the merger case, prosecutors accused Lee Jae-yong and other former executives of violating the Capital Markets Act to engineer a merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries. Before the merger, the Lee family and related entities controlled Cheil but not Samsung C&T which was a major shareholder in Samsung Electronics.

As of end-September, the Lee family and related entities owned 20.7% of Samsung Electronics, it was reported.

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